As is now common knowledge, I am in the midst of a legal challenge against my former Masters’ degree provider, the Metanoia Institute. This is on the basis that I was discriminated against for my beliefs around sex/gender and my concerns about gender ideology, particularly the medicalisation of young, vulnerable children.
You can imagine, therefore, my interest when someone today sent me an article written by a fellow Metanoia student. The author is Paul Christopher Mollitt, a psychotherapist and doctoral candidate. The article itself is entitled ‘The Big Issue – Fear, Anxiety and the Toxic Trans Debate’.
I was even more interested to discover that it was the feature article of the magazine ‘Therapy Today’ published by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), one of the UK’s largest accreditation bodies for therapists and counsellors – with over 50,000 members.
I had hoped (perhaps naïvely) that the author and article would consider this complex and sensitive topic from a balanced, non-partisan perspective, in which all voices of the debate were given fair treatment. How wrong I was.
Context matters, especially when it comes to academic research. The surrounding context of an academic can tell the reader a lot about the lens through which they view material, their ability to engage in nuanced discussion and any risk that their own ideologies may cloud their conclusions.
This article itself centres around Mr Mollitt’s own doctoral research study, which is entitled ‘Mollitt PC. Exploring cisgender therapists’ attitudes towards, and experience of, working with trans and non-binary people in the United Kingdom [unpublished doctorate research]. Metanoia Institute 2022.’
A few things immediately stand out for observation:
· The research has not been published. It seems odd that a major therapeutic accreditation body would lead with an article for its membership, in which the underlying data is not available for public scrutiny.
· When one goes back to the link of the original survey, it is no longer accessible, even in a basic read-only format.
· The research survey itself was supposedly answered by 576 psychotherapists. This is an extremely small fraction of the estimated over 100,000 therapists/counsellors in the UK (precise statistics are not available, given therapy is not a regulated profession in the UK).
· The methodology of the survey itself is questionable. Contrary to what Mr Mollitt states in the article itself, it was a non-random, online self-report survey. The survey was emailed out to groups of therapists, who themselves were then invited to share onwards with other therapists in their social network. This leads to a risk of certain groups of therapists within certain circles being disproportionately represented in the results. Mr Mollitt himself admits that therapists from London and the South-East were “over-represented”, which should come as no surprise.
Given that there is no way for the reader to interrogate or scrutinise the research study itself and underlying data, we are left in a scenario in which the only available information from the study comes from Mr Mollitt’s own subjective commentary on it, along with quotes and statistics which are clearly cherry-picked by him.
As we will see further below, this is a cause for concern.
An Ideological Backdrop
Before delving into the article itself, I decided to spend a few minutes looking at Mr Mollitt’s social media activity. Again, I hoped this would provide me with a background and context to his studies and also set the tone for what would be in the article itself.
What I found deeply concerned me.
It became very clear, very quickly that Mr Mollitt takes an extremely partisan and ideological stance on the issue of gender ideology, one which borders on condemning and shaming those with a different view to him.
In a Tweet on 1st April 2022, Mr Mollitt states: “The only professionals that need to worry about a total ban on conversion therapy are those with prejudice towards trans people”.
In one fell swoop, Mr Mollitt dismisses and attacks the well-founded and genuinely held concerns that have been publicly voiced by doctors, therapists, lawyers, teachers, social workers and politicians as to the negative consequences of including ‘gender identity’ in conversion therapy legislation.
In another Tweet he derides “clear transphobia disguised as ‘child protection’”. Is he saying there are not valid child protection considerations when it comes to potentially irreversible harm coming to children (particularly with increasing numbers of detransitioners)?
Upon Keira Bell losing her case at the Court of Appeal regarding puberty blockers for young children, Mr Mollitt celebrated, describing it as “great news”, seemingly ignoring the troubling and saddening story at the heart of this, which was the irreversible harm caused to Keira herself, following her being affirmed down a path of transitioning.
Regarding the petition started by myself and Thoughtful Therapists, asking the government to safeguard exploratory therapy for vulnerable children (which subsequently received over 11,000 signatures and a government response), Mr Mollitt describes it as “transphobic”.
One of the most concerning statements of all comes from a Tweet on 18th September 2020, in which Mr Mollitt states that being ‘right wing’ “seems, to me at least, fundamentally incongruent with the profession”. This is an overt suggestion that having right-wing views is incompatible in some way with being a therapist or counsellor. This is a highly insulting generalisation, completely devoid of nuance or evidence.
He puts forward the conspiracy theory that “right wing/religious fundamentalist/radical feminists” are engaging in the “insidious delegitimisation” of trans people.
Mr Mollitt also introduces critical race theory and intersectionality into a number of his posts. He refers to “negrableism”, which describes the “intersection of ableism and anti-blackness”. He also celebrates those who “attempt to revise this sad history” of “white, heteronormative and genderist categories of health”.
Mr Mollitt is an ideologue. This isn’t a particularly controversial statement, when we consider the above.
It’s no crime to be an ideologue. I champion free speech and the right for people to hold and express their beliefs. However, when an academic writing a study and article on a highly nuanced topic very clearly has a set agenda and one which supports one ideology above all else, we must question what is happening.
Furthermore, I find it fascinating, bewildering, concerning and highly telling that this therapist with these partisan, controversial, divisive and ideologically driven beliefs has been supported for doctoral research and is now being published as a leading writer for one of the main therapy publications in the UK.
Yet, for raising concerns about children’s wellbeing, starting a government petition and questioning therapeutic models, I was expelled from the profession over a single email.
What does this tell us about state of the therapeutic community and the powers that be?
The Article Itself
With this above contextual framework in mind, below are some of the most concerning/telling aspects of the article itself:
Throughout the entire article there is a strong sense of hostility towards those who take a different view to Mr Mollitt, including those who are gender-critical or have concerns about the treatment of gender dysphoria. Everything is viewed through a pre-determined ideological lens. He speaks of responses to his survey that were “shocking…anti trans” and yet doesn’t produce the responses themselves, nor state what evidence there was to demonstrate the respondents were anti-trans. At one point he suggests that a respondent might be “anti-trans” for having said they believe in “biological reality”.
Factually inaccurate, ideologically driven language is used throughout. For example, Mr Mollitt describes groups of therapists as “cisgender”, even though many would refute and reject that term. He also uses the term “sex assigned as birth”, which we know to be scientifically unfounded. For individuals working within the healthcare professions to use such misleading language is troubling. He suggests that we are “debating the existence” of trans people – a common trope unfounded in reality. Nobody seeks to suggest people do not exist – what they do suggest is that there must be a balancing of rights and harms at all times.
There is a distinct inability or unwillingness to consider the other side of the argument. For example, the government’s decision to not include ‘gender identity’ in conversion therapy legislation is summarised as “cruelly omitting trans people” – hardly a beacon of balance and nuance. He warns readers to be “wary” of the “anti-trans” individuals in the profession but again offers up no evidence or nuanced analysis of how to identify someone as anti-trans. As mentioned above, Mr Mollitt seemingly thinks that those who believe that sex is binary are automatically anti-trans.
The cherrypicking of survey responses and the subjective spin and commentary added to them is telling. For example, Mr Mollitt seemingly champions the respondent who wrote “people’s lives are not there to be debated, ever”. However, he downplays the respondent who wrote of their “fear of being ostracised and facing malicious complaints” by saying that such a response renders trans people “invisible”.
Equally, he downplays and dismisses the genuinely held concerns of those in society regarding the impact of gender ideology. As regards those who have concerns about trans women using public toilets, Mr Mollitt describes this as “paranoia”.
The article castigates those who seek to “pathologise” being trans and yet makes no comment whatsoever on the fundamental inconsistency in arguing that irreversible medication and surgery should be made available to those struggling from gender dysphoria – a mental health condition.
He recommends that therapeutic training courses “move towards intersectionality”, notwithstanding the significant amount of current literature and research which is highly critical of this branch of post-modernism.
The article favourably quotes Dr Igi Moon, the non-binary Chair of the Coalition Against Conversion Therapy. However, it fails to address the previous comment made by Dr Moon that “if you believe in a two-sex model, you should not be seeing clients”.
The article defends the much-criticised Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy (MoU), including the fact that its authors state that “the MoU does not ban exploring someone’s uncertainty or ambivalence at accepting their gender or sexuality”. This statement is a red herring. We know that many children present at gender clinics convinced 100% that they are trans and should transition, which is hardly surprising when many have spent hours self-diagnosing online and being affirmed through social media. Children, in particular, can be certain about many things that they later change their mind on. I have spoken with detransitioners who were unwaveringly convinced they were trans, only later to regret it when it was too late. If anything, those who are certain of proceeding down a particular path deserve the greatest exploration. To say that the MoU does not prevent working with someone who is already uncertain ignores the bigger picture.
Finally, the article itself, unintentionally, proves the point that myself and colleagues have been making for some time regarding the ‘affirmation’ approach in therapy. One of the core tenets of psychotherapy is that you should never go into the therapy room with a pre-determined outcome. An affirmative approach does exactly this. Mr Mollitt quotes Dominic Davies, founder of Pink Therapy, who says that therapists should practice in an “affirmative-exploratory way”. It is interesting that the ‘affirmative’ comes before the ‘exploratory’ in this statement (which I suggest was done on purpose). Crucially, the statement is disingenuous. The definition of affirmation is “a statement or sign that something is true”. In this way, it is ethically and practically impossible to both affirm and explore at the same time. These two things are mutually exclusive.
From start to finish, this is a story of ideology. It is an example of academic research which is conducted in a partisan, non-neutral manner, with the author seemingly looking for data to justify and prop up his pre-existing beliefs.
I fundamentally believe people should be entitled to hold and voice their opinions and beliefs.
However, this is about more than just one man and his beliefs. This is a piece of doctoral research and an article being held up by the largest therapeutic body in the UK as the truth. In this way, it pushes a particular ideological stance and therefore shuts down debate or dissent within its membership. I can only imagine how a trainee therapist who believes in biology would feel reading the article.
Whilst this article gets held up as gospel by the therapeutic bodies in the UK, I find myself awaiting a trial date to challenge my expulsion from the profession for simply voicing my beliefs.
It is becoming more and more clear that, within the therapeutic community, it truly is one rule for one and another for another.
Given the fact that each and every one of us deserves equal mental health support, irrespective of our beliefs, this should be of concern to us all.
(This post was originally published on James Esses’ Substack under the title: Therapy: A Profession Captured?)
By James Esses, Co-founder of Thoughtful Therapists